The WWE has made no bones about opting for full-on free agency, at least at the top of the card, while new talents are honed and developed in the undercard.
Temporary talents like The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Triple H and The Rock were all utilized in main events of what could be the biggest WrestleMania of all time.
With the recent debut of Brock Lesnar, reported flirtations with Dave Batista and the rumored returns of The Rock, The Undertaker and now "Stone Cold" Steve Austin for next year's WrestleMania, the WWE has officially caught free-agent fever.
This past Monday on RAW, the WWE intelligently swallowed its pride and introduced the WWE Universe to Brock Lesnar.
No, not the guy who unceremoniously exited stage left to a hostile New York crowd at WrestleMania XX, but rather the UFC heavyweight champion and box office draw who polarized mixed martial arts for perhaps the most productive three-year career in UFC history.
Not only did the WWE break its time-honored unwritten rule of not mentioning UFC on TV, but Lesnar went on to engage in a bloody, worked, shoot fight with John Cena that blurred the lines between real and work, while subtly implying that an MMA fighter had indeed made the crossover into WWE waters.
Fans reacted accordingly, and if any segment in recent history was more effective in making me want to see a WWE match, I have yet to see it.
With Lesnar now in the fold, giving wrestling fans something new—not to mention a much-needed proven draw on pay-per-view—MMA bad boy Tito Ortiz, a proven pay-per-view draw in his own right, has now fallen in to the promotion's lap to continue its string of good luck.
It's no secret that Ortiz's star has grown stale in UFC as wins for the former light heavyweight champion have been few and far between for several years. However, Ortiz's star power has always been palpable, and it is the reason charismatic pioneer has been able to hang around as an attraction despite having only one win since 2006.
Whether the WWE wants to admit it or not, UFC is competition, especially on pay-per-view. The UFC's goal is to give combat sports fans a reason to pay for big fights between hungry combatants.
The more charismatic stars who can talk up a fight—and who choose to wear black hats like Chael Sonnen, Josh Koscheck and formerly Brock Lesnar—are always a priority when it comes to receiving a top spot on pay-per-view bouts regardless of their MMA record, as fans will readily pay to see them lose.
There's a reason that WrestleMania XXVI drew a disappointing buyrate on the same weekend of the high-profile UFC 111 card featuring UFC megastar George St-Pierre in the main event
UFC has borrowed a simple formula once perfected by the WWE to usurp the wrestling promotion as the king of pay-per-view, routinely drawing 500,000 to one million buys on pay-per-view on a year-round basis while the WWE only sees these types of numbers during WrestleMania season.
Part of the WWE reversing its fortunes at the box office will be fortifying its star power. If Tito Ortiz is to come on board as a special attraction shortly after his MMA career has wrapped, the WWE will have injected its brand with more of that UFC swagger, borrowing back the same formula that made it a pay-per-view giant.
Should Tito Ortiz eventually come to terms with the WWE, with both him and Brock Lesnar proving to be effective, the passive-aggressive WWE-UFC rivalry could become quite interesting.
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